Before settlers came to the area, the Illinois Valley was inhabited by a people known as the Mound Builders and the Native Americans. Because of the limited amount of written records concerning these people, very little is known about their lives and activities.
The first recorded journey through the area is that of Louis Joliet and Father Marquette in the late 1660’s. They passed through the area on their way west, and Father Marquette later returned to found a mission near what is now Starved Rock.
Rene-Robert Cavelier Sieur de LaSalle, for whom the city is named, began is exploration of the area in 1678. After traveling the Mississippi River, he and Henri di Tonty built Fort Saint Louis at Starved Rock. He continued to travel, building forts, until his murder in January 1687.
Development of the Illinois Valley
After Illinois declared statehood on December 3, 1818, it was only a matter of time before settlers began moving into the Illinois Valley. LaSalle County was established on January 15, 1831.
One of the most well known first settlers of the area was Aaron Gunn. He eventually purchased the tract of land that is now located just north of Eleventh Street, between Chartres and Bucklin Streets. Other settlers included Samuel Lapsley and Burton Ayers. Lapsley built a log cabin between Fourth and Fifth Streets, south of the present location of LaSalle-Peru Township High School in 1830. Additionally, he constructed a saw mill that was located in the Little Vermillion, just below the Matthiessen and Hegeler Zinc Company, or the M&H property. Ayers owned a log cabin and shop where he made plows on the corner of Sixth and Union Streets.
As the dream of constructing a canal from this area up to Chicago became reality, the need to create towns along its banks grew. Consequently, the town of LaSalle was platted in 1838. At this time, many purchasers of the lots were canal workers or shop keepers hoping to sell supplies to the workers. The canal was officially opened on April 16, 1848. Four days later, the “General Thornton” became the first boat to travel the canal.
Construction of the Illinois & Michigan Canal led to an increase in population of the LaSalle area. Between the years of 1843 and 1848, the population had grown from almost 100 to 200 people.
In 1851, residents of the area began to see a need for an organized government. A board of trustees, which included Edward D. David, John Allen, Francis LaBeau, Nicholas Duncan, and William Whaley was created. One year later, on August 4, 1852, the City of LaSalle was officially established as a city. Official positions were created which included the elected and appointed officials of Mayor, Aldermen, Clerk, City Attorney, Assessor, Collector, Treasurer, Marshal, Engineer, Weighmaster, and Street Supervisor.
By 1869, the official boundaries of the City had been established. The boundaries remained unchanged for several years until 1923 when the City annexed a large area of land. The land near the present location of Northwest School was annexed in 1962. The City continued to annex land, with 61 annexations between 1963 and 1989. In 1999, the city greatly increased its acreage with 71 annexations. The last annexations to occur the City’s limits were in the year 2006. With several landowners wishing to become part of the LaSalle, the City continued to move north into previously unincorporated area.
Source: City of LaSalle History Book